JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has blocked a law from taking effect Sunday that would have prohibited teachers from using social networking sites such as Facebook to carry on private conversations with students.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a preliminary injunction against the law Friday while declaring that it “would have a chilling effect” on free speech rights. The judge put the law on hold until Feb. 20, allowing time for a hearing on whether the law should be permanently blocked.
The new Missouri law would have barred teachers from using non-work-related websites that give “exclusive access” to current students or former students who are 18 or younger. That would have meant that communication through Facebook or other social networking sites would have to be done in public, rather than through private messages.
The Missouri State Teachers Association and several public school teachers challenged the law. They said websites such as Facebook and Twitter had become a common part of modern interaction between teachers and students and argued that to restrict them would violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The judge said the teachers’ lawsuit had a good likelihood of success. His order noted that social networking sites are used extensively by teachers and that the law would have restricted online communications even between family members in which teachers are parents.
The judge prohibited Attorney General Chris Koster or the state from taking any action to enforce the new law. The order also specifically assures teachers that they cannot be disciplined for engaging in private online communications with students while the injunction is in effect — even if it is later overturned.
The Missouri National Education Association, another teachers’ union which was not part of the lawsuit, has been working with legislators to try to revise the new Missouri law. But the Missouri General Assembly does not reconvene in regular session until January, and the subject of teacher-student communications was not included by Gov. Jay Nixon on the agenda for a scheduled September special session.
“This gives everyone time to debate and discuss the issue to come to a proper resolution, rather than rushing to piece together language that doesn’t resolve the concerns of educators or allow time for teacher input,” said Gail McCray, an attorney for the teachers’ association.
Attorney general’s spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said the office had no comment on the injunction. Under Missouri law, the attorney general’s office is responsible for defending all statutes against lawsuits.
Teachers’ groups originally supported the Missouri legislation, which received more attention during legislative debate for its other provisions. One part of the new law, which was not challenged, requires schools to share information with other districts about teachers who have sexually abused students and allows lawsuits in cases where districts fail to disclose such information and teachers later abuse someone.
The judge also let stand other portions of the Missouri law, including a section requiring teachers’ work-related Internet sites to be available to administrators, parents and students’ legal guardians. Also still in effect is a provision requiring schools to develop written policies by January on teacher-student communications that cover both oral conversations and electronic media such as text messages and Internet sites.
- Missouri ‘Facebook Law’ Limits Teacher-Student Interactions Online, Draws Criticism
- Missouri’s New Facebook Law Prohibits Teachers From Friending
- Drunk Drivers, Sex Offenders and Classroom Teachers
- Judge Denies Request To Block Ind. Voucher Program
- Teachers Suffer Cyberbullying By Pupils And Parents
Category: U.S. News
There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.